Fantasy Fiction Speculative

  Inside his belly, he could hear the screams of a thousand men and women. He laughed, and a city fell. On his morning jog, oceans sloshed and spilled over coastlines, drowning the praying tourists and locals; indiscriminating destruction, done without malice—without emotion.

He belched, and with it came a collective cry for mercy. He shrugged. What was he to do about it? He had tried everything that he could think of, including but not limited to ingesting Ipecac, punching himself in the stomach, getting black-out drunk, eating ghost peppers, etc., etc. It only made him feel sick, and maybe some of them were vacated in the violent discharging of various bodily fluids, but these things were resilient. 

On occasion, when he was feeling particularly sympathetic to their situation, he would hold a speaker up to his belly and play his favorite concerto. The chaos in his gut would calm, and he'd feel an overwhelming sense of belonging. In those moments, he felt unified with these things within him. He pictured them sitting beneath grand oak trees, sunbathing upon rooftops, enjoying wine during a sunset (was there a sun within his belly?), and sleeping; what did these things dream of? 

Other times he would consider drinking the liquid plumber or throwing himself down the stairs. The coroner, the man thought, would certainly have a story to tell around a poker table after that autopsy. 

"And when I cut the man's stomach open," the coroner would say, "there were a million dead beings. It was like Pompei; women and men huddled together moments before death, cities preserved by the copious amount of processed foods that this guy must have been consuming. I guess there are anthropological excuses for eating foods with preservatives. Right, fellas?"

Feeling rather dubious about his post-life experience, the man decided to see a doctor. 

An expression of repressed doubt lingered on the doctor's face long after the man had told him about them. 

"What about the constant smell of exhaust?" he said to the doctor.

"We'll know in about a week when the labs come back, but as far as I can tell, you are the picture of a healthy forty-year-old man," said the doctor. He leaned back in his chair, looking up at the ceiling. "When did you say that this started happening?"

"The feeling of—them?" said the man.

"Yes, that feeling."

"Well, I think it's been about three weeks now. It started as an unpleasant taste in my mouth then one morning I woke up to the sounds of hammering. The windows were shut—double-paned—and I don't live above or below anyone. I'm in a single-family home. And this hammering wouldn't stop."

The doctor approached the man and looked into his ear with the otoscope.

"Can you follow my finger?—just your eyes. Thank you, very good," said the doctor. "Can you lay down for me? Well, you are a little bloated." The doctor pressed lightly on the man's pelvis, then stopped suddenly. "Hmm, I do feel something here. It's hard but seems to break up when I push on it."

The man winced.

"I think you just killed some of them."

"It may feel like things are living in your stomach, but that would be a first," the doctor said with a wink. "Why don't we do a quick ultrasound? We have the machine here, it shouldn't take much time, and we'd be able to spot anything obvious. Sound ok to you?"

"I am willing to do and try anything. More than this feeling, it's the thought that I'm responsible for these things. If I wanted that responsibility, I'd get a dog. Doctor, can I ask you a personal question?"

"Depends. Why don't you ask it, and we'll see if I can give you an answer?"

The doctor folded his arms and removed his glasses. 

"Do you have children?" 

"Yes, I have three kids, all in college now." 

"Do you like them?" The doctor raised an eyebrow. "What I mean is, do you ever wish you'd chosen the other path? The path where you ended up not having any kids." 

"It's natural to think about what could have been, but I wouldn't change a thing. I love my kids. You don't have children, correct? Unless I'm missing that in my notes," said the doctor. 

"I'm only asking because, well, I wonder if this was a decision I made and not just a virus. It's a little embarrassing, but I did something a few weeks ago that I'm not entirely proud of," said the man. 

"What did you do?"

"You know those silica packs that come with food sometimes to keep it fresh?"

The man said in a whisper. The doctor leaned in to better hear him.

"I accidentally cooked a pizza with one of those packs on top of it."

"Did you eat the silica pack?" said the doctor. 

"No, God no, I would probably be dead. Right? I took it off but was so hungry that I ate the pizza anyway." The doctor smiled and patted the man's knee. 

"I don't think that's it. Let's wait to see what the ultrasound shows."

The room was cold, but the gel the nurse applied to the man's chest was warm. He pushed back the feelings of arousal that began to nag him. He thought about the things inside his stomach; was he being selfish for wanting to cut them out? For wanting to poison them? Then he thought, maybe I don't want that. Instead, perhaps I want to protect them, to support and nourish them.

He considered his life. A single man with no partner on the horizon, no unique abilities or hobbies—no ambition.   

"This shouldn't take long; we just need to grab a few images from—" the nurse stopped short. On the screen, there lived a breathing world; cities with high-rises, factories, rolling hills, and jutting mountains. The man beamed with joy. "I don't understand."

The nurse was dumbfounded. 

"We're not alone," said the man, cradling his belly.

August 07, 2023 19:02

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Fernando César
21:21 Aug 12, 2023

Hi Sean, this is a very creative story. In the realms of surreal. I do prefer a bit more of context, you don’t explain what happened, how or what followed, but I guess that’s more of a personal taste :) I enjoyed the strong start and also some nice details in the descriptions: oak trees, he pushed back the feeling of arousal, etc. I do feel the man’s personality is not clear. He starts laughing and killing them rather blasé, but then he contemplates suicide and ends up on what seems a stressed doctor appointment. Seem that he feels about the...


Sean McDonnell
04:25 Aug 13, 2023

Thank you for your thoughtful comment! I intended to have this dichotomy between feelings of invasiveness and unity, but looking back at the story, it could have used breathing room to express that adequately. Again, thank you for the feedback, very helpful!


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Karen Corr
13:18 Aug 13, 2023

Loved it! Great story!


Sean McDonnell
14:19 Aug 13, 2023

Thank you! <3


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20:31 Aug 12, 2023

Bro that was a trip and a half. Nice job!


Sean McDonnell
04:27 Aug 13, 2023

Hahaha! That's the reaction I was hoping for! Thank you!


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